Writer(s): U2 (music), Bono (lyrics) (see lyrics here)
Released: October 1, 1984 (as album cut on The Unforgettable Fire)
First Charted: August 24, 1985
Peak: 19 AR, 3 CO, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 47.5 video, -- streaming
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About the Song:
“Bad” can arguably be called U2’s breakthrough moment – specifically their performance of the song at Live Aid on July 13, 1985. Their 12-minute performance of the song at the star-packed concert shown a global spotlight on the band then known mostly for “Pride (In the Name of Love),” their only U.S. top-40 hit. Not only did Bono come down off the stage to help a fan who was being crushed by the crowd, W1 but he showcased his star power, energy, and enthusiasm in capturing an audience of 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London with an anthemic performance of a song about heroin.
Bono has given varying accounts over the years regarding the exact inspiration for the song, saying, among other things that “I wrote the song for a friend of mine; He has said the song is about a friend who died of a heroin overdose, but on another occasion said, “I also wrote it for myself because you can be addicted to anything. And, you know, that song’s not just about: it’s about a lot of things.” W1 At a performance in Pittsburgh in 2011, he said it was about “a very special man, who is here in your city.” W1
He’s also talked about it without reference to any specific person, saying of a lot of teens who fell victim to the heroin epidemic in Dublin in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that “they gave up everything they held sacred to this drug…I tried to describe that with the song…what it was like to feel that rush, that elation, and then to go on to the nod, the awful sleep that comes with that drug, and then scream: ‘I’m wide awake, I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping!’ I can see what’s going on.” SF
The studio version of the song was criticized as “unfinished” and “unfocused,” but it made more sense on sense. Rolling Stone called the live version a “show stopper.” W1 The song was originally released on 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, but an eight-minute live recording of the song was released on the 1985 EP Wide Awake in America. This latter version, recorded at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England on November 12, 1984, W2 was the one which garnered radio airplay.
First posted 7/15/2021; last updated 3/18/2023.